[Opinion] Japan’s digitalisation and constitutional reform

There has been a dramatic increase in media coverage of constitutional reform and digitalisation in Japan in recent years. Even amid the COVID-19 Outbreak, the issue of constitutional reform and the associated referendum law is a matter of such interest to the public that it is always covered in the media. This article will analyse the debate on constitutional reform from a digital perspective.

Cyber-attacks and associated security enhancements are required in the public and private sectors as digitalisation progresses. Cyberspace has been defined by the US Army, Navy, and Air Force as the “fifth military domain” after outer space and is considered so crucial for national security that the Ministry of Defense has a column for it in its annual Defense White Paper. Can our Constitution, which has been in force since the end of the war and unchanged for over 70 years, cope with the rapid changes of the times? In addition to cyber defence, the current Constitution is inadequate because it does not envisage current social changes.

Suppose the Self-Defense Forces commit a cyber-attack under Article 9 of the Constitution. In that case, they may not be able to take action until the other side’s attack is identified as an armed attack by the Japanese government, which would make it very difficult to determine the attacker. Currently, cyber security measures are the responsibility of business operators, even if they are the government’s critical infrastructure. Is the current Japanese Constitution, which was created more than 70 years ago, appropriate as the supreme law of Japan for the violent flow of the modern digital society?

Clinging to the past will only leave us behind in modern society. Instead, we must engage in a head-on debate on constitutional reform among politicians and the public. If we continue to turn our backs on reality, it is only a matter of time until we are swallowed up by the rapid changes of modern society.